Joy is elusive these days. We search a bit longer and stretch our imaginations a bit further to experience joy. Yet as Fr. Randy Roche, SJ shares in this essay, joy is there for each of us. Note his final sentence. It will bring a smile to your face . . .
Joy is a gracious word, sometimes even used as a person’s proper name. Because we want whatever is good for a newborn child, no one would ever choose “Sadness” for a name. Joy is an appropriate word for indicating a reality in our experiences that is so good, we can never fully describe its attributes. Just as we can only see the brilliant facets of crystal ware or diamonds on the side we are viewing, we can never apprehend all that goes by the name of joy. Mere physical substances, however valuable, can be weighed and measured, for they are finite objects. Not so with joy, which is such a beautiful and deep mystery of life that it is beyond definitions, and more than we can apprehend with our minds. However, when we reflect on our experiences of joy, and consider a limited number of its notable features, we will gain valuable understanding for our hearts. Joy is a good word, for its origins are entirely in goodness, whether physical, intellectual or spiritual. We might sometimes take pleasure in seeing justice rendered against some malefactor, but that sentiment is not of the same quality as that which arises within us when we see someone learn from a mistake and become a better person. We know too for ourselves, what guilt is like from doing something that we do not approve of, and we have learned what it is like to “own” our past behavior. Then, with newly acquired practical wisdom, we somehow make a change inside us determining not to do that again, and experience a moment of true joy. Even a small amount of growth for the better is a cause for joy.
Jazz, Henri Matisse, 1947, National Galleries of Scotland
Though we probably do not give it a name while it is happening, joy quite often arises within us spontaneously when we are in the presence of beauty, as for example, in natural scenery. Such moments are like standing together with God while these words from the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis come to mind, “And God saw that it was good.” We are even more frequently prone to joy when we participate in loving interchanges, including those that are with God. Whenever we make positive comments to others, it brings smiles to their faces and joy to us. In a similar way, from the joy that arises in our hearts when we open ourselves with simple honesty to God, we can assume that this elicits a loving smile of acceptance from God.
Joy is not of our creation, yet we can expect it as an interior consequence of almost any act of helpfulness or kind thoughts. We have the capacity to choose these thoughts and actions; the joy that follows is a sign that “This too, is very good.” For the Creator, who is Good, inspires us to be God-like in thinking, speaking, and behaving in ways that are good for others, revealing God’s presence to them and to us without anyone necessarily perceiving it as such.
Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. (Teilhard de Chardin)